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Russia’s Energy Policy: Expanding Influence

Disquiet over Europe’s reliance on energy from Russia has intensified efforts to find new suppliers. The politicization of energy security in Europe has diverted parties from the threat posed by a continued reliance on hydrocarbons.

Q&A with Senator Byron Dorgan on "Gridlock"

Foreign agents bent on bringing down the United States obtain a thumb drive, which obtains a complicated computer code. This code, when the drive is inserted into a computer connected to the electrical grid, crashes the system and sends major U.S. into waves of rolling blackouts.

This is the plot of Gridlock, the latest novel by former Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and David Hagberg, but it could well be a real-life scenario brought on by an attack on the United States.

The Diplomatic Courier sat down with Senator Dorgan to discuss Gridlock and the issues that informed and inspired the novel.

Energy Access and World Prosperity in Developing Countries

Developing countries will contribute significantly to global prosperity and peace only if they can access sufficient quantities of affordable energy.

Global improvement in living standards, increased political stability and conflict avoidance depend on achieving economic progress in developing countries. They are rising fast in aggregate world GDP share and will pass the developed countries by 2030.

Rogun Dam: The Waiting Game

Since the Rogun Dam project was first conceived in the 1970s, its progress has undergone a series of delays, denying Tajikistan the honor of building the tallest hydroelectric dam in the world and, more importantly, denying the Central Asia region a supply of cheap, sustainable energy.

One of a slew of Soviet-era hydroelectric power plants, construction on the project stopped in the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. More recently, plans for Russia to provide funding for the project unraveled as the Tajik government opted to diversify the ownership of its hydroelectric industry and move away from the Russian investment.

Currently, construction at Rogun is on hold while a series of World Bank-funded studies are conducted into Rogun’s potential ecological, environmental and socio-political impact on the region.

Green Innovations: Wind Technology in China

In her new book, Green Innovation in China: China’s Wind Power Industry and the Global Transition to a Low Carbon Economy, Dr. Joanna Lewis, Assistant Professor at Georgetown University explores the rapid growth in China’s wind technology in the past 10 years, and launched the book at the Wilson Center with a panel discussion on the topic of green innovations and wind technology advances in China that could potentially strengthen U.S.-China collaboration in green technology.

Clean energy is currently a $60-70 billion dollar industry in China, and wind energy in particular is the third largest electricity source in China. Hence, wind energy in China is a perfect example of how investments in clean energy, proper policy support, and technology transfer from foreign firms can result in a success story for the renewable energy industry. In the panel discussion, Dr. Lewis analyzed three models of technology transfer: licensing; mergers and acquisitions; and joint development.

Combating Energy Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa

With its high poverty levels and low degree of industrialization, Africa arguably faces the largest development gap of any region. Beyond the usual misery indices and welfare evaluation metrics, we have fundamental challenges that impede meaningful sustainable development. Energy is an incontrovertible challenge across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

Data from the World Bank and International Energy Agency (IEA) on energy poverty does not make for good visuals. Two out of three of SSA households—585 million people—live without electricity. In stark contrast, 99 percent of North African households have electricity supply. Only 14 percent of rural SSA households are linked to the grid. This compares unfavorably with Latin America where 74 percent of rural households are connected to power. The figures mask a more disturbing fact about electricity supply in most SSA countries: a high frequency of blackouts and unstable power supply. The World Bank estimates that SSA households experienced 91 days of blackouts in 2007.

India Oil DeliveryIndia is caught between the consequences of provoking a United States driven by its fixation upon the Iranian nuclear program and by an Iran that is a major supplier of oil, providing India with access to its vital interests in Afghanistan. The best that the Indians can do is to play for time until the Americans leave the region.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced on March 21st that ten member countries of the European Union as well as Japan were to be rewarded with exemptions for complying with the American sanctions imposed upon Iran. India was not included and did not seek a waiver. Seeking a waiver would have granted legitimacy to the American law.

Indian Foreign Secretary Rajan Mathai supports the United Nation sanctions that he believes are upheld by international law, while he rejects the authority of the United States to impose its domestic laws upon sovereign foreign nations. That was his public stand in February, but Nancy Powell, Ambassador-designate to India, told a Congressional committee that the Foreign Secretary disclosed during his visit to Washington that India would reduce Iranian crude from 12 to 10 percent of imports.

92019003The Saudis are making promises intended to convince Americans and Israelis that they have no reason to worry about the price and supply of oil. They are hoping that their pledges will encourage someone else to remove the leaders of Iran before Iran displaces the United States in the region.

Should there be a conflict with Iran, Saudi prince Ali al-Naimi pledged early in February that the price of oil would not exceed US$100 per barrel. He was speaking of West Texas Intermediate , which is an isolated American market. At the time, WTI was trading at just under $100 while Brent Crude, which makes up 60 percent of the world oil market, was trading $20 higher.

Six weeks after the Prince made the pledge on CNBC, he said at a forum of petroleum ministers in Kuwait that the current price near $125 for Brent Crude was not justifiable. He continues to stress that Saudi Arabia alone and in conjunction with other producers can satisfy any and all market demands.

CNPC_ChinaOver the past twenty years, China has experienced dramatic economic growth, transforming itself from a basically agrarian society into the world’s second largest economy behind only the United States. Since the initiation of economic and political reforms in 1978, China has produced an average annual growth rate of 10 percent. From 1978 to 2008, China increased its GDP 83 times (NBS, 2009) and lifted over two hundred million of its people out of poverty. This has continued to generate increased energy supply. Within China’s energy sector, production was stimulated by the clarification of mineral exploration rights, the development of transportation and roadway infrastructure projects, diversification of management structures and the liberalization of environmental and safety regulations.

As the sale of automobiles in China is expected to surpass those in the United States within the next five years, there is growing concern in China about energy security, power capacity shortages, as well as air pollution. The Chinese Central Government has begun to focus on alternative technologies, including clean coal technology and renewable sources of energy. China is expected to invest heavily in support of renewable energy development targets for 2020. Achieving these targets will depend on developing well-trained and highly skilled personnel, cost reductions in technology and effective distribution of power generation (electric grids) through electric utilities.

800px-PumpjacksEverything you think you know about energy security and energy independence is wrong. All too often you hear that fossil fuels will soon reach their peak, that our consumption of oil causes global insecurity vis-à-vis rogue states and terrorist organizations, and that the United States would benefit tremendously from becoming completely energy independent. Under closer scrutiny, however, the alarmist scenarios, political correctness, and chic notions of sustainability that dominate today’s energy discourse simply do not stand up to actual realities.
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